THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac – as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly’s wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman. It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
My take: 5 looks
A fairy tale for adults – perfection!
As a 7-year-old boy, the narrator experiences situations, people, and creatures he had only ever read of. A malevolent spirit is awakened in the forest, and makes a way to follow him home, inserting herself in his world as her new playground. When Lettie, his new friend from down the lane realizes that she had a hand in this creature’s presence, she determines to send it home.
And it goes from there. A novella written with several layers of meaning, I found what I think is the heart of the story on page 112:
“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the while wide world.”
And there-in lies my love for this book. Gaiman hits it right on the head. Grown-ups need fairy tales, too, and here he delivers a grand one!